For nearly 45 years, Ellsworth Christmas has volunteered at the Indiana State Fair’s Pioneer Village to teach fairgoers about Indiana’s traditional crafts and agricultural practices. He grew up on a farm in rural Warrick County, Indiana at a time when farming with a mule and plough was slowly giving way to tractors.
In 1975, Maurie Williamson at the Purdue Ag Alumni Association invited the young extension specialist to demonstrate chair caning at the Pioneer Village. In subsequent years, Ellsworth constructed a smoke house and built the pin-framed barn that serves as the backdrop for the Pioneer Village stage. He worked with other volunteer artisans to build the “Johnson Cabin,” a replica of the 1822 cabin that once stood on the fairgrounds. While he continues to demonstrate during the fair each year, Ellsworth works with a team of volunteers to restore the village’s collection of antique farming equipment and wagons.
From splitting shingles and smoking hams to building wooden wheels and making an ox yoke at the fair, Ellsworth Christmas has worked to preserve Indiana’s farming heritage through his contributions and demonstrations at the Pioneer Village.
*Maurie Williamson was the founder of the Pioneer Village and recipient of the 2015 State Fair Master Award